Banburyshire Family History

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Byron Rogers

The village is Blakesley in south-west Northamptonshire, which I think puts it into the "Banburyshire" area. The author is a well known contributor to newspapers and these are a collection of his writings.

What attracted me to the book? Many factors, including an interest in the rural scene and its history. My paternal grandfather and his forebears came from Claydon, where the Oxfordshire/Northamptonshire boundary skirts the village, and they showed a line of Agricultural Labourers.

But then, too, my husband's family emigrated from Woodford near Thrapston, in the north-east of the county. An interest in Northamptonshire and membership of the list stems from this.

The Green Lane to Nowhere - The life of an English Village

Finally, from our home in Coventry, my sister and I roamed the Northamptonshire county on our tandem, and down into North Oxfordshire covering the area pretty thoroughly, in the early 1950s. Wonderful country --- if a little hard on our aging derailleur gears, until new Sturmey Archer ones fixed the problem of the rolling ups and downs of the Midlands! So when I spotted this book on the Library shelves I was delighted.

Byron Rogers writes in an engaging style. I didn't want to put it down, but like much of my reading it was a delightful accompaniment at mealtime! The next repast --- and session, couldn't come soon enough!

The stories were about changes in the village and surrounding area. The vexed question of whether city people seeking to "escape" to the country were in turn destroying the village life they sought; demand pushing up the prices forcing out the locals, and homes for the young country families becoming unaffordable is explored. Hence the village was a quiet place, during the day, once the commuters had departed. Infact quite unlike the bustle of the village of the past --- with people moving about in their work/trades, carts rumbling through and the clip-clop of horses, the sounds from the schoolyard at playtime....

Mr. Rogers talks about the old folk and the "characters" who had, or still lived in the village. And what an idiosyncratic group they were! He is a sympathetic listener and open to learning about the changes that these older inhabitants had experienced. There was pathos, in some of the accounts, as they ended sadly, as many stories of old folk tend to do, when their health or faculties break down. There is laughter too, as he often views things whimsically.

We learn history and pre-history, as the importance of the "Watford Gap" is explored --- at first as a defensive site, then as a route for potential and actual invaders and finally in the "modern" scheme of things. A Roman road, canal, railway, highway and motorway have all utilised this geographical feature.

The "Western Mail" sums it up so well ---------- "Possibly the most charming and beautifully written book I've read in years. This quirky collection will become a classic."

The whole is combined harmoniously so I learnt such a lot quite painlessly. Do read it!

Reviewed by Muriel Wells, (née Parritt)